State Forests

Sand Dunes State Forest


Management Activities:

Minnesota's state forests were established to produce timber and other forest crops, provide outdoor recreation, protect watersheds, and perpetuate rare and distinctive species of native flora and fauna. The DNR applies multiple-use management principles to allocate state forest resources to meet the needs of Minnesota citizens. Management actions are planned to maximize the sustained yield of renewable resources while maintaining or improving forests' productive capacity.

To date, more than 2,400 acres of tree plantations have been established in the Sand Dunes State Forest. The majority of these are pine. The oldest were planted in the early 1940s. Each plantation is thinned once every five to 10 years, allowing more room for the remaining trees to grow, and yielding a variety of forest products such as fuel wood, pulpwood, sawlogs, poles, and posts.

Over the next 30-50 years, parts of Sand Dunes State Forest will undergo changes. To better support a variety of rare plant and animal species found in this forest, areas of planted pines will gradually give way to oak savanna and prairie. Details on the changes can be found in the Sand Dunes State Forest Operational Plan and the Subsection Forest Resource Management Plan.

History: Sand Dunes State Forest is located within the bounds of Orrock Township, named after the first white settler in the area, Robert Orrock, who arrived in 1857. When the first settlers came, the land was virgin prairie. Most of these pioneers were farmers, so most of this prairie was turned by their plows. The early major crops were oats, rye, wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, and hay. Even though the sandy soils were not conducive to high yields, farming continued as a major source of income for many families until the late 1920s and early 1930s. The Great Depression of the '30s and the Dust Bowl drought of 1933–34 brought an end to most farming in the area. The light, worn-out soils "took to the air and drifted like snow" over roads and onto front porches. Concerned citizens who wanted to stabilize the drifting sand began experimental tree planting in 1941. Many species, including both hardwoods and conifers, were planted. The conifers surpassed the hardwood species in survival and growth. In 1943 Ray Clement introduced a bill to the Minnesota Legislature proposing that sections 16 and 36 and the NW 1/4 of section 22 (now the Ann Lake Campground) be set aside for conservation. The bill passed, and Sand Dunes State Forest was created. In 1951 it was expanded to its present size of 11,040 acres (approximately 17 square miles). Although all this area is within the boundaries of the state forest, only 5,447 acres, or 51 percent, is owned by the state. The remainder is owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior and private parties.

Acres: 11,040

Year Estab: 1943


Rare Species Guide:


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